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British Mensa Annual Gathering 2019

From Fri Sep 13 2019 to Mon Sep 16 2019
Add to Calendar09/13/2019 13:0009/16/2019 13:00Europe/LondonBritish Mensa Annual Gathering 2019


Pentahotel, Oxford Rd


Pentahotel, Oxford Rd RG1 7RH Reading
United Kingdom
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British Mensa Annual Gathering

13-16 September 2019

The Penta Hotel, Oxford Road, Reading, RG1 7RH


Reading is a large, historic university and minster town in Berkshire, England, of which it is now the county town. It is in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway. It is very central and has great road and public transport links.

The Penta Hotel will be our main hotel for the 2019 AG - bookings for accommodation and the events programme is now open to members and their guests. It is centrally located, with great shopping, medieval ruins and the Thames Valley countryside nearby. The city centre is a fun place, with lots of restaurants and bars to visit! But whatever you do, you'll enjoy a friendly atmosphere and comfortable rooms at the Penta Hotel.

We look forward to welcoming you to the 2019 British Mensa Annual Gathering - the first ever hosted by the Central Region.


Hotel Accommodation


It starts with the space. Your space, and plenty of it, styled to perfection. Penta say the zen-like ambience will help you to de-stress and enjoy your stay even more and the free TV channels takes the relaxation to the next level. Includes WiFi, bottle of water, rain shower, bathroom amenities, hair dryer, laundry and room service

Standard bedroom rate including breakfast

Single Occupancy £72.00 per night
Double Occupancy £82.00 per night

Call 0118 958 6222  - option 2 and quote “British Mensa”

Please note the above rate is now subject to availability and at the discretion of the hotel

as the deadline to book at this rate has now expired.


Car Park Information

The closest car park to Penta Reading is located opposite the hotel at Q Park, Chatham Street, RG1 7DS. Please press the button at the gate for a ticket and take it to reception. The hotel reception staff will validate the ticket and you will receive 40% discount from your overall stay. For charges please click here


Programme (link to book is at the bottom of the page)

IMPORTANT: Please note the times advertised are start and finish times of the actual event. 

On all external events you will need to factor in at least 15 minutes and in some cases 30 minutes ahead of the published start time for travel. Please refer to your event passport during the weekend which will have your latest hotel assembly times for each external event you have booked.


Hotel based Walk to the venue

Transport will be provided


Time Thursday 12th September 2019


Harwell - Diamond Light Source.   £5.00   FULLY BOOKED

Leave hotel 15:30. OR make your own way, register onsite for 16.30.

To infinity & beyond! We have a fantastic opportunity and only a limited number of spaces available to visit the national synchrotron. Ideal if you are passing through on your way to the AG. 

Here, scientists use light to study a vast range of subject matter, from new medicines and treatments for disease to innovative engineering and cutting-edge technology.

Our visit will consist of a talk and a tour of the facility, each lasting approximately 1 hour.  Tea, coffee and a Danish will be served on registration.

Access to Harwell is difficult on public transport.  When booking, please indicate whether you can offer other visitors spaces in your car or whether you will need transport.  Once we know the requirements, we can make suitable transport arrangements which will be charged at cost.

19:45 - 23:00

Wine Tasting, talk and meal.   £30.00

Leave the hotel at 19:30

Tasting House are an independently-owned wine bar located in the heart of Reading. They have a passion for wine, local food and speciality coffee.

Enjoy a 3 course meal specially prepared for our group alongside a “mystery quiz” style tasting of 5 fabulous wines, each discussed with the resident wine expert.  

  Friday 13th September 2019




RISC Roof Garden.   £6.00

Leave the hotel at 10:30 or 11:30.

An edible forest garden on the flat roof above the conference hall at RISC (Reading International Solidarity Centre). Created in 2002, it was designed as an educational tool using permaculture principles. It demonstrates how a garden can support more sustainable lifestyles and provide a practical solution to the problems of climate change and oil usage.

Please note, access to the roof garden is via an external metal staircase.  

0.6 miles, 12 min walk. Click here to visit the RISC website.


Walking Tour-Reading Town Centre.   £5.00

Find out so much about Reading, The 5B’s, dispelling myths, its history, culture, famous people and wonderful Forbury Gardens and the Abbey (once one of the biggest in the world and so influential in our history). 


The Royal Berkshire Medical Museum.   £5.00

& The Museum of English Rural Life 

Coach leaves the hotel at 14:15.

The Royal Berkshire Medical Museum is part of the Berkshire Medical Heritage Centre which was founded in 1997.  It is housed in the splendid old hospital laundry, built in 1881. They have specific displays on pharmacy, surgery, anaesthetics, blood letting, blood transfusion, medicine in wartime, ENT, ophthalmology, dental surgery, nursing, fibre-optics, infectious disease and quack medicine. 

Museum of English Rural Life (MERL)

MERL was established in Reading in 1951 to capture and record the rapidly changing countryside following World War II. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books. Today, MERL uses its collection to explore how the skills and experiences of farmers and craftspeople can help shape our lives now and into the future.


Pub Crawl.   PAYG

Warm up for the Icebreaker with a visit to three local pubs. All near to the hotel and highly rated by CAMRA for their range of real ales.


It's Not Patently Obvious: by Peter Sadd.   FREE

How do you get a patent and why would you want one? An inventor with thirty years’ experience will introduce you to the curious (and sometimes amusing) world of patents.


Newbies.   Free

First time at an Annual Gathering? First time at a Mensa event? First time in Reading? Whatever – join us for an intro and meet others in the same boat before descending on the Icebreaker.




Hot and Cold buffet Icebreaker Meal.   £20.00

Take the weight off your feet, relax and enjoy a hot/cold buffet meal in a cordoned off area at the icebreaker.  

GF = Gluten Free, V = Suitable for Vegetarians                               


Soup of the day with rustic bread GF V


Cured meat


Coleslaw GF, V, Beef tomato, mozzarella and basil GF,V


Vegetable chow mein V, Fish and chips, Chicken and mushroom pie


Cajun potato wedges


Clotted cream cheesecake, Fruit salad.


Icebreaker.   FREE

The traditional informal get-together and a chance to meet over a drink. If you haven’t been to a BMAG before, this is an opportunity to meet other folk who are attending the weekend. It’s very relaxed and friendly and there will be a low-key fun competition for those who want to take part, the choice is yours. 


Poker Competition.   £10.00

Poker face ready? Will you be crowned this year’s Poker champion? Medals and cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Disconnect yourself from the internet and play with real cards and real chips. Fixed entry stake. Texas Hold’em only.


Late-night Clubbing.   PAYG

Anyone up for a late night out out? Join our night owls for a trip around local bars/clubs.

  Saturday 14th September 2019


Park Run.   FREE

Shake off the morning cobwebs with a 5km parkrun along the Thames Towpath.

Our aim will be to leave the hotel at 08:15 for the 1¾ mile walk/jog to the parkrun start at Thames Valley Park; for those who would prefer to limit their exertion to 5k we can arrange transport to and from Thames Valley Park. We will aim to return back to the hotel for approximately 10:15. There is no charge for the Parkrun though if you want to get a time you need to register with and print off a bar code.



Royal Windsor Day Trip.   £10.00

Coach will leave the hotel at 09.30 sharp for the 30 minute trip to Royal Windsor.

A trip to Windsor will provide numerous places to visit if you just want to be a tourist for the day: Visit the riverside railway station, walk over the bridge to Eton past a very good bookshop, also look into the Guildhall, a Grade II listed building designed by Sir Thomas Fitch in 1687 which houses a museum.

Events may also include the Changing of the Guard at 11am:

ADD + Theatre tour & light lunch.   £26.00

Starts at 12.00 until 14:00

Take in a guided tour and learn about the history of the theatre with a view from different sections of the auditorium, backstage, and the current production on-stage (when possible). Find out about the ghost stories and famous visitors of the past at this 200-year-old theatre. 

At the end enjoy a selection of scones, cakes, and sandwiches with a fresh pot of Darvilles tea or cafetiere of Lily Coffee.

ADD + Windsor Castle Tour.   £20.20

Open from 10.00

Pre-book a ticket to enter the Castle to avoid queues on the day. 

On arrival, pick up a handy multimedia guide which will guide you on a fascinating journey through 1,000 years of royal history and the British monarchy in the Castle Precincts, State Apartments and St George’s Chapel.

Your visit will take you to the magnificent State Apartments, home to priceless works of art by Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci. Your multimedia guide will reveal how Edward III, Charles II and George IV changed the Castle to suit their taste. Today, you can still see the painted ceilings and wooden carvings from Charles II’s reign.

Coach will depart from Windsor for the return journey at 16:30.


Thames  / Kennett.   FREE

A 3 mile walk starting along the Thames, passing Kings Meadow and Caversham Lock. Then at Horseshoe Bridge (long flight of steps) we cross to the Kennet canal. After Blakes Lock we visit the Riverside Museum (steps) which is a small museum with a gypsy caravan, some Reading memorabilia and pumping machinery in the turbine hall. We continue along the southern branch of the Kennet to reach the Abbey ruins before crossing Forbury Gardens to return to the town.


Reading Museum–copy of the Bayeux Tapestry.   £5.00 

Walk Hotel to Museum is about 20 minutes.

The announcement that France was lending the Bayeux Tapestry to Britain was met with the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of a Gallic shrug by the good citizens of Reading.  This is because we already have Britain’s very own full-size Victorian copy of the Tapestry right here at Reading Museum.

Reading’s was sewn by members of the Leek Embroidery Society, in 1885.  It is slightly taller than the original, as it has an extra blue border at the bottom where the 35 women who made the British copy recorded their names under each section they sewed. The members of the Society copied a set of photographs that had been ‘cleaned-up’ by the male staff at the South Kensington Museum, hence the addition of pants on some of the figures along the bottom.


Reading Library: Behind the scenes.   £3.50

The current library was opened in 1985.  It is in the heart of Reading on Abbey Square, on the corner of the King's Road, on the former site of the Reading Abbey stables where the horses of medieval churchmen, nobility and royalty were stabled. It is also very near the old Abbey gateway, where Jane Austen went to school, and which is the ancestor of the current Abbey School.  

Special collections include books and letters by local author Mary Russell Mitford and local MP, judge and author Thomas Noon Talfourd.  Books in the library date back to the English Civil War: there are photographic collections and other ‘hidden gems’ of the Reading area, including a map collection.

The library is open for the Heritage weekend but this session has been reserved for Mensa.



European Centre for Medium Range Forecasts.   £10.00

Coach will leave the hotel at 11:45

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 states. ECMWF is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its Member States.

This visit includes an overview of how the centre works, a tour of the computer hall and a light lunch (sandwich + crisps) courtesy of the ECMWF.

The coach will return to the hotel at 14:45. I

You can still book on this event if you want to also visit the Siren Craft Brewery. We will take straight there after this event.



Think @ Oxford – Philosophical Discussion Café.   £5.00

Austin Caffrey, organiser of Think @ Oxford and his team will bring a flavour of Mensa’s hugely popular long running Philosophical Weekend to this year's AG.

There will be a presentation by Austin called "Thinking About Humanism" followed by a Philosophical Café which will require active participation from the audience.  

Includes coffee and biscuits. 


Siren Craft Brewery Tour & (plenty of) sampling.   £20.00

Coach will leave the hotel at 14:15.

Siren Craft Brew was born in 2013 with a simple idea in mind: to introduce exciting, full-flavoured and forward-thinking beers to as many people as possible. There are now six Sirens of Siren Craft Brew. These Sirens characterise our flagship beers. They're adventurous but drinkable, designed to be accessible to those lured into craft beer, yet flavourful enough for those seasoned beer fans to return to time and time again.

Price Includes return coach travel.


Bell Ringing.   £3.50             FULLY BOOKED

Leave the hotel at 13:45.

Have a go at church bell ringing!  Bell ringing has a long history in England and, for various reasons, has evolved to be unlike ringing in other parts of the world. 

The Reading branch of the Guild of Bell Ringers is offering the opportunity to learn a little of the history and mechanics, the challenge and the joy of bell ringing.  There will also be the chance to experience this ancient art for yourself with the aid of an experienced ringing tutor, on bells cast between 1790 and 1890. 

The venue is St. Giles Church which is a 15-minute walk from the PENTAHOTEL. 


Pub Crawl.    PAYG

Warm up for the Gala Dinner with a visit to three local craft beer pubs


Pre Dinner drinks reception.   PAYG


Gala Dinner & Disco.   £35.00

Formal black tie / evening gown three course sit down dinner.

Choose one option from each course


  • Leek, fennel, apple and walnut soup
  • Smoked salmon, beetroot and horseradish
  • Chicken liver pate and apple terrine and fennel slaw


  • Slow cooked apricot and thyme pork belly with mashed potatoes, fine beans and jus
  • Pan roasted salmon fillet topped with tomato salsa, Gnocchi, courgette, cherry tomato and samphire
  • Butternut squash risotto with parmesan crisp and rocket


  • Raspberry and white chocolate crème brulee with shortbread
  • Rhubarb crumble with custard and poached blood orange rhubarb
  • Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream


Late night Disco.   FREE

Bop to classic Mensa anthems and new favourites. Suggest a tune for the playlist. Email:


Poker.   £10.00

Another opportunity to pit your skills and walk away with cash from the pot. 

  Sunday 15th September 2019


AGM Registration.   Members only

If you are attending the AGM and haven’t registered yet, you will need to do so now to be allowed entry. The Mensa Office desk will be open from 09.00. You will be required to produce your Mensa membership card as ID.


British Mensa Annual General Meeting.   Members only

Put your business hat on! Open to current members of British Mensa Ltd by pre-registration. Register in advance or during the AG. The AGM will be audio recorded in full. 

To download the agenda and reports for the AGM, please click here.

*Please note this event may overun


Walking Tour – Reading’s Proud Architecture.   £5.00

Famous and not so Famous Architects. 'The New, Old, Good, Bad, downright Ugly and the Missing' and will feature examples of amongst many other things, some buildings from Reading's 4 world famous Architects.


Woodley Air Museum.   £10.00

Coach will leave the hotel at 10am.

Berkshire's dynamic contribution to aviation history is graphically re-captured at the museum. Run as a charitable trust, the museum is at the historic site of Woodley Airfield, near Reading, once the centre of a thriving aircraft industry. Miles and Handley Page aircraft built at Woodley are being re-constructed and exhibited along with fascinating pictorial records and priceless archives.

Most of the Museum is accessible for disabled visitors. A wheelchair is available to anyone who requires one to get round the Museum. Just ask at the pay desk. Guide dogs welcome.

Cost includes return coach travel and donation to the Museum.


Mensa Matters.   FREE

Meet the British Mensa board of Directors, find out what's next for the organisation and ask questions or suggest ideas!

*This event is planned to start after a very short break when the AGM finishes.


Reading Synagogue – private tour.   £5.00

Leave hotel 13:15, start at 13:30.

The Synagogue is Grade 2 listed, to a traditional design, in the Moorish style. It has a warm and homely feel and stands to-day on its original site at the junction of Goldsmid Road and Clifton Street. It is open as part of the Heritage weekend, but Mensa members will be visiting after access to the general public has closed and will have a short (20 min) talk before viewing the building. Please note, men must cover their head.



River Boat Cruise, tour, talk and cream tea.   £32.50

Coach leaves the hotel at 13:30.

Boat sets off at 14:00 sharp.

Sunday Afternoon on the River – Mapledurham Watermill & Cream Tea

Join us for a 45 minute cruise up the Thames from Caversham to Mapledurham, an estate which has been owned by the same family since 1492.  This is a private visit arranged for Mensa members and the site is opening especially for us.

We will be welcomed by the Miller, Corry Starling, who will conduct our tour of the oldest working watermill on the Thames and the much more recent Archimedes Screw Hydro Turbine.  As long as there are no weddings booked he will also take us for a brief look at St. Margaret’s 14th Century Church.  The Tour will finish with a visit to the Mill shop, where the flour and a range of gifts are sold. 

After the tour we will enjoy a cream tea prepared by the Miller’s wife using flour ground in the mill before our boat returns us to Caversham. 

Coach transport will be provided between the hotel and Caversham in both directions. 

Note that there are a limited number of seats in the mill and some walking and standing is involved during the full tour.  However, there is disabled access and assistance available on the boat and on site.  Please request further details if you have any concerns. 


Stanlake Park Wine Estate tour & tasting.   £25.00

Coach will leave the hotel at 14:00.

Stanlake Park Wine Estate owns some of the highest quality vineyards in Berkshire, using grapes from these properties to produce a large range of excellent English wines.

Nico Centonze, Stanlake Park’s skillful Italian winemaker, personally follows the progress of each wine, carefully tasting, blending and selecting which wines to bottle or to mature. The whole wine-making process, from the vine to the bottle, is personally overseen and guaranteed.

Price includes return coach travel.



Bell Ringing.   £3.50        FULLY BOOKED

Leave the hotel at 15:00

Have a go at church bell ringing!  Bell ringing has a long history in England and, for various reasons, has evolved to be unlike ringing in other parts of the world. 

The Reading branch of the Guild of Bell Ringers is offering the opportunity to learn a little of the history and mechanics, the challenge and the joy of bell ringing.  There will also be the chance to experience this ancient art for yourself with the aid of an experienced ringing tutor, on bells cast between 1790 and 1890.  The venue is St. Giles Church which is a 15-minute walk from the Penta Hotel. 


Pub Crawl.    PAYG

The final crawl of the weekend takes us via the station and nearly all the way to the Spice Oven


Restaurant Meal @ The Spice Oven.   £20.00

Coach will leave the hotel at 18:45.

Unlimited buffet! The talented chef will prepare authentic Indian, Chinese and European dishes. 

The following menu is available for those who wish to choose a more 'English' menu

Cream of veg soup, Fried calamari and crab bites, Greek salad, Chicken &  mushroom bechamel, Fish & Chips and mushy peas, Pasta bake with cheese and tomatoes, Vegetarian burgers, Dessert bar

Please state when booking if you would like the 'English' buffet meal.

Includes return coach travel.

  Monday 16th September 2019 


Reading's Proud Photographic Heritage.   £5.00

A walkabout showing Reading's proud photographic heritage, featuring many famous & some not so famous photographers from world famous Fox Talbot onwards including some buildings from Reading's past + some fascinating tangents!


Farewell Lunch – Sweeney & Todd pie restaurant.   PAYG

Leave the hotel at 12:15.

Sweeney and Todd is famous for its award winning pies and one of the best places to eat out in Reading. Established over 40 years ago Sweeney and Todd is a Reading institution. If you have not yet tried the Sweeney and Todd famous award winning pies you have not lived! Click here to visit their website.